Hidden deep within the daily workings of governments and civilizations is a secret world of mystery, danger, and intrigue. A world where deception is a form of art. Where people are never who they say they are. Where the tiniest observation has the power to save an empire or spark a global war.
Welcome to the world of the spy—a world that most of us associate with popular fiction and film but the true story of which is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine.
For thousands of years, espionage and covert operations have been powerful but shadowy forces. Much of world history has been shaped by the dramatic exploits of men, women, and organizations devoted to the perilous tasks and undercover missions that are part of a spy's life. Consider that covert operations have played critical roles in
- epic conflicts such as the Trojan War, the Crusades, World War II, and the War on Terror;
- political upheavals such as the American, French, and Russian revolutions; and even
- cultural moments such as the quest to colonize the New World, the 19th-century expansion of empires, and
- race to build the world's first atomic bomb.
Indeed, to truly comprehend the forces at work in international politics, whether at the dawn of civilization or among today's sophisticated world powers, one must understand the secret role of espionage and the shadowy world of covert operations.
Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History is your chance to take a detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of this top-secret subject. Delivered by master historian and popular Great Courses Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, these 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes. Filled with stories that are both marvelous and mysterious, and insights that will change the way you think about some of world history's most defining events, this course lets you peer inside a subject whose truths most people are unaware of.
Survey the Dramatic History of Espionage
Espionage and intelligence have been around since human beings first began organizing themselves into distinct societies, cities, states, nations, and civilizations; for this reason, spying has often been referred to as the world's "second oldest profession." Beginning around 2000 B.C.E. with a clay Mesopotamian tablet that refers to mysterious fire signals between villages, Professor Liulevicius expertly guides you across time and around the world on an in-depth investigation of this intriguing topic.
After an introductory lecture that grounds you in the language and culture of spies, you delve into distinct periods of history that were shaped by espionage and that, in turn, shaped how spies and covert organizations executed their missions. Here are just three that you'll learn about:
- Ancient and medieval traditions: You'll see espionage at work in a variety of early peoples, including the Hittites and Israelites (where spying was first tied to diplomacy and religion); the Greeks and Romans (in examples like the Trojan War and the wars to expand the Roman Empire), and the medieval Middle Easterners and Japanese (with their secret societies such as the Assassins and the Ninjas).
- The rise of nations: Beginning in the 1500s, a wave of political, social, and religious changes wracked Europe and gave rise to the modern nation-state. It was during this period that intelligence gathering became an essential function of the modern state. You'll learn how espionage was integral to the rise and success of Elizabethan England, tsarist Russia, revolutionary France and Germany, and America's own Revolutionary and Civil wars.
- Espionage on a global scale: During the global conflicts of the 20th century, the techniques and technologies of espionage exploded in ways earlier civilizations could never have predicted. In addition to learning about the growth of spy phobia in the United States, you'll find out how new technologies aided in cracking intricate codes during World Wars I and II, how espionage worked to repress societies in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, and more.
Explore Top-Secret Organizations, Meet History's Greatest Spies
Central to the world of espionage, you'll discover, are the covert organizations responsible for both acquiring information from the other side and protecting their information from being stolen. History is filled with such organizations; some successful, some corrupt, some more influential than others.
For example, you'll be introduced to the inner workings of covert organizations from both yesterday and today, including
- the Assassins, a religious sect of trained political murderers that operated out of a mountain fortress in northern Syria during the time of the Crusades;
- the Oprichnina, a feared secret service established by tsar Ivan the Terrible in the 1500s in an effort to cleanse Russia of treasonous activities;
- MI6, the popular name for Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, which was first established in an effort to defeat the Germans during World War I;
- the CIA, established in 1947 by President Truman to replace the Office of Strategic Services to be in charge of all intelligence collection—and which had an embarrassing early history; and
- Mossad, Israel's version of the CIA, which won a series of key intelligence victories during the cold war and over terror attacks and hostage crises in the second half of the 20th century.
But perhaps even more eye-opening than the organizations devoted to espionage are the individual men and women who served as spies. Throughout Espionage and Covert Operations, you'll meet famous—and infamous—figures, including
- Sir Francis Walsingham, who built the institutional bases for intelligence services in Elizabethan England;
- Belle Boyd, who spied for Confederates during the American Civil War and earned the nickname "the Siren of the South";
- Mata Hari, the archetype of the "femme fatale" who secured information for French and German intelligence services before World War I through means of seduction; and
- Kim Philby, a highly successful British secret service agent who from the first was determined to spy for the Soviet Union.
A Stirring Series of Lectures
With the same captivating lecturing style he's brought to his other Great Courses, Professor Liulevicius has created a stirring series of lectures that proves why he's deserving of his numerous awards and accolades. Among these: the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.
And, in the style of his other popular history courses, Espionage and Covert Operations never shies away from asking tough questions about espionage or probing intriguing issues and debates, including
- the psychological motives behind spies—and why they sometimes betray their countries;
- the relationship between literary spies and their real-life counterparts;
- the growth (and ethics) of cyber warfare and corporate espionage; and
- the question of whether we currently live in a surveillance society.
So join Professor Liulevicius for this penetrating look into a world that few of us truly understand—but one that is more important to everyday events than you ever imagined.